You’ve Been Thinking About Customer Service All Wrong: This is The Digital Age, Baby!
Customer service is about solving the problems of your customers. Whose job is customer service? The truth is, customer service is the responsibility of everyone in your company. Building a brand means delivering on a promise again and again. It means consistency and maintaining effective customer relationships.
But what about today? How has this changed? Today, brands are working their butts off to build out and maintain their digital footprints — this means their business/brand is ‘open’ (at the very least openly visible) 24/7.
How Does a Business Approach & Maintain a New Definition of Customer Service Today?
Now, companies have to manage customer service across multiple channels. When people have a negative experience online, they blame the company. Not responding to customers on review sites and social media is worse than having a phone line that goes unanswered, because there are thousands of people witnessing the neglect.
Digital Customer Service: 10 Actionable Tips To Impress and Better Convert Customers
1. Respond to reviews quickly
When customers take time to leave a business a review, it’s essential to respond in a timely manner. Nearly nine in ten consumers read online reviews to determine the credibility of a business, and it’s important they see that the business has an active, responsive voice. Not only will other people who visit the review site see the response, but it’s possible those people could share the review and response with their own networks. All reviews should be acknowledged by your business. The only exception to this is star-only rating reviews. These are permitted on Facebook and a few other top review sites.
2. Provide a consistent experience
Depending on the type of product or service that you offer, customers may interact with several people at the company before the final transaction. Your business needs to make sure that throughout the entire experience, that your customers are having positive interactions. The same story should resonate throughout your customer service efforts, and that story should be customer-centric.
Apple is an example of a company that provides a consistent experience throughout their customer funnel. From their website with its sleek, minimalist design to the simple and elegant phone you take home, Apple products and website offer a cohesive experience.
3. Experience your customer journey
Most businesses have put together their online presence somewhat piecemeal—create an account on one social platform, add chat integration to the website, build a blog, expand offerings, etc. While this is the most common way to build out a business, it doesn’t always equal the most seamless customer journey. Go through your buyer’s process. Search for yourself online, look at the website content, sign up for the newsletter, etc. Note any bumps and bruises you find along the way and how you can make the whole experience more cohesive.
4. Use social media as a two-way street
Perhaps the best thing about social media is that it means a sort of democracy for customers and businesses alike—everyone is on the same playing field. While social media can be tiresome, let’s be sure we don’t ruin one of the best things about it—the fact that consumers can have conversations with businesses. Share helpful content, engage with consumers and occasionally share promotional info about your products or services. Asking questions, holding competitions and sharing content relevant to your audience are all good ways to engage with consumers. Don’t just talk, listen.
5. Have a high performing website
People visiting your website are not patient so your business needs to have a webpage and assets that load quickly. Nearly 50% of consumers expect a page to load in two seconds or less, anything longer than that, consumers start dropping off. The abandonment rate for viewers waiting to start up a video is a steady curve up and to the right. When website visitors have a poor experience on a company website, they blame the company, not Google, wifi issues or whatever else may be the problem.
6. Open communication and transparency
Consumers can detect sales-y language from a mile away. It’s best to be direct about your offerings, and even your shortcomings. Nail your sales approach and provide consumers the information they’re looking for. Even if you are unable to solve every problem your customers have, they’ll appreciate your honesty and will be less likely to leave. Set your brand voice, share your truths. Being honest with consumers, even if it appears to be a negative, usually pays off.
7. Get your listings right
Having a thorough understanding of listings is essential in the digital space. Getting business listing information accurate (name, address, and phone number) across the web, though, is one of the most important things your business can do to create a better digital customer service experience. There are many important directory and listing sites. Also, having correct listings with the four major data aggregators (Factual, Acxiom, Neustar-Localeze, and Infogroup) is one of the keys to disseminating accurate listing data across the web.
8. Positive attitude
The power of a positive attitude and its influence on customers should never be underestimated. Optimism is a cornerstone of customer service. Small changes in language and wording can make a huge impact on customers:
Option one: I’m sorry, we won’t have that product in our software this month.
Option two: That functionality will be available at the beginning of next month! Our development team is hard at work on a few other features that are useful to you, as well…
Abrasive or abrupt language is very off putting in customer service, even if it is not directly rude or negative.
9. Use email effectively
Make sure when you email your customers, that you have something to say. The communication should be timely, relevant and helpful. Having an effective call to action is essential—give them a reason to read and engage with the email. An automated newsletter is fine and can be a good piece of communication, but never have a do not reply email.
10. The heartbeat of digital customer service
Your customers may say they want the best product, and that they want it at the best price. While that is true, what they want most is authenticity. Authenticity is delivering on a promise. Authenticity is consistency. Authenticity is digital customer service.
Positive Reviews Need Responses, Too: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet
A good or bad reputation can mean the difference between a business thriving and expanding, or closing their doors for good.
Digitally, a business’s reputation is often controlled by customers using online review platforms like Yelp, Google and Facebook to describe the quality of their business publicly — good, bad, and downright ugly.
The Good News for People Who Love Good News
Online reviews can be easily monitored and managed, a super power businesses owners can put to good use by responding in a timely and effective manner. If you haven’t seen our guide on how to respond to negative reviews, head there right after you read and share this post!
And while we’re on the topic of negative reviews, it’s true – the negative reviews often get this most attention. If you have more than one child, do you spend all your time cracking down on the cranky, ornery child? Clearly no! Positive reinforcement is something we all look for (subconsciously) because it does exactly what it says! It reinforces — positively.
It’s not only important to respond to positive reviews (to thank customers for taking the time to review your business) it’s an actionable marketing tactic that can often go unnoticed. One thing that responding to positive reviews does? It encourages others to review your business.
With 92% of consumers reading reviews online, businesses can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. An effective response will help ensure that a happy first time customer becomes a regular, and 70% of complaining customers will come back if you resolve the complaint in their favor.
The first step is engaging with them.
4 Simple Steps To Responding to Positive Reviews Effectively
True story: it’s simple. Thank the customer, name drop, promote and tell the customer what to do!
Say thank you and be specific: No one would let a compliment pass them by in real life. Apply that same principle to a review response! And make sure to reiterate your customer’s compliment. This lets the customer know that a real person took time out of their day to acknowledge them, and that feels good.
Use the business name and keywords: Don’t miss out on the opportunity to drive your business up in search results—positive reviews work wonders in search. Referring to your business name, location and category (restaurant, coffee shop, hotel, etc.) helps index that review online.
Market, market, market: Is your business famous for a certain secret sauce? Are you having a promotion next month? A review response is a great place to get the good word out.
Give your customer a task: Not as scary as it sounds. Invite them to try something different the next time they visit, or bring a friend!
As you can see, there’s a ton of potential hidden in a positive review response. Instead of one advertisement to rule them all, each review is an opportunity to sell your business — without spending any more marketing dollars!
Let’s face it — people are social animals and people are strongly influenced by the experiences of others. Google will tell you too: During the customer journey, if the ‘reputation’ factor in a customer’s decision process is on the up-and-up, they’re much more likely to convert.
On the contrary, if the ‘reputation’ piece to the conversion puzzle isn’t strong, consumers often jump straight to the next competitor in line; reviews and reputation problems or not!
Undeniable Tricks To Help You Manage and Benefit from Negative Reviews
You’ve taken the (necessary) leap to jump feet first into the ocean of digital platforms, competitors, and customers. It is, after all, sink or swim when it comes to owning a business — but are the waters full of sharks? Yes. But it’s full of sharks for all businesses — not just yours.
You’re talking online. Your digital footprint proves that! Your competitors are talking, your customers, and your employees are all throwing in their two cents online.
Do you know how you know?
Simple: reviews. Yup, both positive AND negative. The first trick to managing them isn’t a trick at all, it’s a proven practice — respond, to both positive and negative. This way you’ll be able to better control the conversation — otherwise, especially with negative reviews, the public that is hiding behind a keyboard has the conversational upper hand.
No business owner should want that or let that happen.
So what’s the deal with negative reviews? What are the best practices? Who knows — there’s no definitive rule book. You know what there is, though? Data to back up the following tips and tricks to manage and even benefit from negative reviews.
Believe it or not, the same premise applies to negative review response as it does to positive reviews. How you respond to a negative review impacts not only the reviewer, but all the sets of eyes (and attitudes and customer actions) that come afterward.
Seeing a business handle a particularly challenging review online suggests that the business as a whole is proud of their business, their products, and their services. It also proves, undeniably, that you’re willing to go the extra mile to maintain not only your reputation, but that your brand truly cares about its customers.
4 Proven Steps To Manage Negative Reviews Like a Pro
Make potential clients see the light with these four steps:
- Get offline
- Keep it simple
How to respond to negative reviews using the above 4 business-saving tactics
Apologize and sympathize: The first step towards fixing a problem is acknowledging that one occurred. Regardless of what happened, a simple apology and sympathy for your customer’s experience goes a long way.
Promote : So the famous crab cakes weren’t up to par the day this particular customer visited. If they’re what you are known for, why not reiterate that? “Our crab cakes are usually a hit, we’re sorry to hear that they weren’t up to par when you visited!”
Move the conversation offline: Don’t open a can of worms. Keep the lid on tight by offering the reviewer the chance to reach out via phone, email or both.
Keep it simple: Avoid specifics and don’t ask questions. Those conversations are much better served in a space away from the prying public.
One last pro tip/trick: Leave your business name, location and category out of this. You don’t want your negative reviews showing up in search!
You Reclaimed the Conversation, Now Benefit From It
Being the stellar marketer/business owner that you are, you followed the above 4 steps. And now that you’ve responded and stoped crying yourself to sleep every night because of a negative review/mention, it’s time to use the situation to your advantage.
Awesome, but how?
It’s tempting to creep over to the dark side, but now that the process for turning things around is gaining some momentum, it’s time to do the following:
Understand that negative reviews aren’t the revenue destroyer that you think they are. In fact, less than half of polled consumers say they’d stay away from a business because of a negative review.
Additionally, consumers actually don’t mind a full spectrum of review sentiments. Consumers who have the opportunity to read the good, the bad, and the ugly feel better informed during their decision-making processes.
3 Marketing Wins from What Seemed Like a Marketing Fail
Let’s let Harry Truman chime in (who knew Harry Truman had the insight of a modern digital marketer!?):
A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.
So, whether you’re a glass is half empty person or a glass is half full person — the perceived set back of a negative review needs to be redefined in your mind:
The facts about what negative reviews can positively do for your business:
- They alert you to problems you weren’t aware of, so you can fix/improve them.
- They give you an opportunity to improve brand sentiment by how and when you respond.
- They can provide a search engine optimization (SEO) bump, since they add legitimacy (and trust and credibility) to your business.
When you have a negative review, it’s better to do what we’ve outlined above — but know that every failure is an opportunity — do you think Thomas Edison didn’t fail thousands of times? Amazon? Apple?
Just like we use data, as marketers, to improve our marketing campaigns, that’s all a negative review is: data for you to either use to your advantage or it’s wasted data that can hurt in the long run if you don’t wield it like a sword to cut through the noise and (instead) send the right signals — to your customers, your potential customers, and the search engines.
And don’t ignore positive reviews. They need love (responses) too! Have you seen our Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Responding to Positive Reviews?
Reputation management — much of which is achieved through SEO. This means effectively using search engine optimization to improve the information that becomes available when someone searches for your business.
If your last few products or your recent services haven’t been up to your usual standard, then this might result in some bad reviews appearing prominently in the search engine results. This in turn means that the first things people find about you will potentially be negative when they look for your brand online.
Getting your own website to be the first result when searching for your business then is obviously one way you can begin to combat this. At the same time, you can work to increase the visibility of the positive reviews that are out there to help them rise above the negative ones.
Reputation management also means other things. For example, you need to ensure that you are generating those positive reviews which you can do simply by asking your customers and visitors to. Another option is to offer incentives for good reviews – such as discounts. A good strategy on social media is to say that you will write X post or provide X product but only if you receive a certain number of likes or reviews.
It’s also important to make sure you’re seen to respond to negative reviews in a polite and effective manner. Express your concern that your customer was not happy with the product or service they received (even if you don’t really feel that way!) and then offer to make amends in some way or other. This is reassuring for other potential customers, it demonstrates that you care and if you can solve the problem for the customer then they may even alter their review and make it more positive.